Mark's career is over but parents still invested in hockey
HOCKEY: The celebrated career of their son Mark might be over, but Barb and Ryan Knowles know hockey will remain a big part of their lives.
Mark, 34, retired after leading the Kookaburras to Commonwealth Games gold on the Gold Coast this month.
The victory brought the curtain down on a decorated 15-year international career in which he played 324 games for Australia, won an Olympic gold and two bronze medals and two World Cups.
Mark's devoted parents have travelled Australia and the globe following the fortunes of Mark and his beloved Kookaburras.
They've been there for all but probably two of his international tournaments. They've ridden the highs and lows, they've celebrated and commiserated, they've been the staunch and loyal supporters only parents know how to be.
That's changed now, but Barb insists that she and Ryan's love affair with the game will continue.
Their involvement on the local hockey scene, with Barb the president of Rockhampton Hockey and Ryan the association's facilities co-ordinator, will also demand it.
"It's been a long and pleasurable journey for us and we will miss it, there's no doubt about that,” Barb said.
"We've been associated with so many different members of the (Kookaburras) and their families and we've made some really good friends.
"Hopefully we will still attend some of the big tournaments and we're seriously thinking about going to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
"Ryan and I are hockey tragics and while it won't be to the same extent, we will continue to follow the team that has meant so much to Mark and to us for such a long time.
"If we can plan a holiday around a hockey tournament, we'll be on for that.”
Barb said her immediate focus was on preparing RHA's bid for the 2019 FIH Oceania Cup, while Ryan is overseeing the installation of the city's second artificial turf.
"I'm still working and believe me there's plenty going on in our lives, but hockey would still probably take up 80 per cent of it,” she said.
Barb said there weren't enough superlatives in the dictionary to sum up the events of the 2018 Commonwealth Games that produced the golden epilogue for Mark's incredible sporting story.
Barb and Ryan, Mark's three siblings Karen, Brent and Camille, and his wife Kelly and their three children Flynn, Luca and Frankie were all there to witness the perfectly scripted finale.
"It certainly was wonderful,” Barb said.
"We went down there anticipating a good competition and hoping the Kookaburras could finish on a high note and win the gold.
"I guess the surprise of Mark's appointment to carry the flag at the opening was just amazing.
"It was something that was unexpected but it certainly set the scene for a very special time for all of us.
"To see that incredible honour bestowed on Mark at the start of the Games and then for him to have the fairytale finish ... it certainly was wonderful.
"They are memories that will last a lifetime, that's for sure.”
Barb revealed the semi-final showdown against England was the most stressful for her.
"They were always going to be very tough, and they were,” she said.
"Semi-finals can change a tournament, so to get that one was the biggest relief.
"I wasn't as nervous on grand final night as I was for the semi.”
The Kookaburras scored a 2-nil win over New Zealand in the gold-medal match and player Jacob Whetton pounced on the game ball and gave it to his inspirational skipper.
Barb was genuinely touched by the gesture.
"I sent Jacob a message to say thank you. He texted back and said it was only a small thing after all that Mark had done for him.
"That was just lovely and they're the things that you remember, that make it so special.”
Barb said it was also exciting to return to Rockhampton and relive 'those special moments' with friends and members of the hockey fraternity here.
"It really gets the adrenalin going and gets me excited again, recapturing all those special moments,” she said.
Barb said while she had long agreed with Mark that his gold medal win at the 2004 Athens Olympics was the pinnacle of his career, the events on the Gold Coast had changed her mind.
"There were just so many highlights.
"To hear how highly Mark is regarded for his performances on and off the field was really humbling.
"On the night of the grand final, the Governor-General also presented him with a medal for sportsmanship and leadership.
"For him to lead Australia's sporting elite at his home Commonwealth Games in his home state and then to win gold in his final international competition, I really can't go past this as the highlight of his career.”